A change of pace for us

Sipping what is quickly becoming my new favorite cocktail,  Hemingway Daiquiri,  thanks to the talented bartender at a.bar while people watching out unto the Square …  ahhh yes.   What a relaxing way to spend a hot afternoon followed by a dip in the pool at the Rittenhouse Hotel?  And after a nice swim being driven (ha ha ha) to a concert outside at the Mann Center listening to Colbie.   And nothing says a night out in the city to return to our room with light jazz piping from the radio and our slippers and robe awaiting…only to change into our evening attire and head for a midnight nightcap at Tria Tap Room followed by a late night walk around the square.

This is a change of pace for us. Hiking boots no where in site. Instead a last minute getaway planned as a deal popped up on LivingSocial and credit card points were awaiting use…

And what better way to cap off the weekend then a meal at our favorite Steven Star – Dandelion -in a cozy room surrounded by dogs and friendly bartenders. We could not leave  without picking up Luxardo Maraschino Cherries for my new favorite cocktail and so we happened to stumble upon a cooking demo at Williams Sonoma where we proceeded to buy it all.. alas time to go… but waitbefore we go just one more stop for Sunday School at Tria at Fitler Square.  Too full to enjoy more then the cheese taste of the day, we know where our first stop will be the next time we venture into the city.


Too beautiful of a day to get right in the car..

So just as with any good journey,  plans can easily change.  A new discovery.    Today it was Hills Creek State Park.    Although the lake is man made, it is a wonderful, rather remote, and quiet State Park.  The lakeside trail loops around the lake:  A perfect 3 mile easy hike for a day when you want to take it easy but still enjoy beautiful scenery.   We decided it would be the perfect place to camp on a future trip to this area.

W2015-05-25 13.25.39e were glad we made the stop for most of the remaining journey on Route 6 was underwhelming. Scenery was beautiful but the hype of the site PA Route 6 Alliance did not match the experience. It seems it had good intentions of bringing tourists to this area but could use signs along the way to point out sites, guide travelers to downtown areas and business (food!) not right on Route 6,  and guide maps along the way (using cell service is difficult in this area)

Two sites along the way worth noting -Marie Antionette Overlook-  the view from this overlook beautiful.  It would be well worth a return trip to divert off Route 6 to visit the French Azilum that we saw below.

We also enjoyed the welcoming town of  Wyalusing.  We stopped at the River Barge Brewing/Grovedale Winery and were relieved to have found a place to eat.  We noticed the Quilted corners of  Wyalusing  and wish I had this brochure on hand .   Although I am not a quilter, seeing these large quilt corners on barns, churches, and other buildings was pretty neat. Perhaps we will return to explore self driving guided tour.


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Rolling forward on Route 6

After leaving the Canyon it was time to check out the towns on Route 6… starting with Wellsboro and heading to Mansfield.  Unfortunately for a Sunday evening most things were closed. ..

We checked  into our very petite and very cheap room at the Microtel Inn in Mansfield… my error in not taking a picture of just how small this one bed hotel room is for there is none on the site.   Think room in NYC!   However, at that price I wish more hotels would choose this option.  Clean, comfortable and good service.  For the budget traveler I highly recommend checking it out.

We ended our day at Yorkholo Brewery –  ok local brewery serving delicious food

We usually do not end a night when travelling at 8 but without much else to do we headed back to our micro room for the night.

Hot Chocolate in the Desert

On December 30 we boarded the plane leaving behind mild winter temperatures in our otherwise usually frigid mid Atlantic region to enter similar, if not cooler at times, temperatures in the Arizona desert. This certainly was not we paid inflated airfare prices for but we were happy to arrive with sunny skies.

I was led to believe that our room at The Phoenician  would be ready for an early arrival. It was not and it was hardly warm enough to stay at the resort and swim. (However the pool was filled for unbeknownst to us this would be the warmest it would get.) We decided to explore offsite and have lunch.

We  drove to St Francis – a place I had wanted to visit  and enjoyed a delightful meal sitting outside under heat lamps trying to pretend in our mind as we stared at the sand and cactus landscape eating unique southwestern dishes like flatbread with chilis, honey and almonds that it was indeed very warm outside. Heat Lamps can lead one to such a belief.

We returned and walked the beautiful resort property until our room was ready. Unfortunately our misfortune would continue by being given a room that did not match the category description. The hotel did correct the issue and put us in a Grande Deluxe Room – and it was very grande!

Of all the beautiful features at the Phoenician, one of our favorites was the Cactus Garden. It was lit up with Christmas lights.  We layered on clothes that we thought would remain in the closet during our stay.  With scarves and hats and coats on we ventured through winding and colorfully lit up trail.  Cactus with Christmas lights in the desert when it is 30 degrees. Juxtaposition indeed (and a reoccurring theme during our stay).

Over the mountain we go..

… to Charlottesville!

What a change in weather.  As we descend the mountain there is no snow to be found and the temperature is 5 degrees warmer! This makes it a perfect day to visit Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.    Taking the walking up the hill provides a good opportunity for exercise, fresh air, and knowing just how high up on a hill Jefferson built his home.   If you choose this route, your tour begins with  the end of his life; the cemetery (interesting to note – Privately owned by the family and still in use).   After leaving the cemetery, you enter through Mulberry Row.  Even on a cold winter day, the gardens still have a few plants growing, primarily herbs which still smell wonderful.   I was amazed by the size of his gardens, vineyards, and nursery.  The grounds of Monticello are a work in progress.  Just this past year the Mountain Project  was launched to restore and recreate what was originally found on the property.  I always find projects like this very interesting – figuring out what was really there and peeling back the layers to represent how it really was.

We were hungry after our visit and decided to visit Charlottesville for lunch. Our trip into Charlottesville took us right into the middle of town where an open Market filled with Christmas music played by old and young musicians. Charlottesville Historic Downtown Mall – Charlottesville, VA Listings. After eating a great burger and too many fries at Relish – we decided to explore a few breweries.  We had enjoyed a Star Hill beer with Thanksgiving Dinner and decided it was the perfect place to go -in Crozen.  They only sell beer – no food so be sure to eat before you go (or hope a food truck is outside) and offer a few beers on tap we had never seen in bottles.Our favorite however was there beer called Snow Blind.  We decided to make one more stop as we drove up the mountain at Blue Mountain Brewery.  Wow was this place packed!  They offer a great flight of all their beers which was a lot of fun for most of them (majority) were new to us.

After a great day out sightseeing there was nothing better then returning to our cozy cabin and enjoying the fire.

Awakening in a Tree House

One sleeps well when surrounded by trees.

We arrived in time the previous evening to enjoy the hot tub located on our own private deck to our cabin.  Heated floors warmed our feet after the two steps from the frigid air into the bathroom.    A fireplace to cozy up to along with a bottle of wine was waiting for us after our soak.  Not one detail was missed in the design of these cabins.  All is perfectly laid out so one can sit back and enjoy either the view, the fireplace, or tv from comfy reclining chairs before retiring to bed. The cabins at Iris Inn are the furthest from what one would expect when  hearing the word cabin or Bed and Breakfast – instead think of an luxurious studio suite.

Whereas for us the place we are visiting is the primary reason to travel and the accommodations are found based on this, the Iris Inn is instead a destination unto itself for a romantic getaway.


Dashing through the snow in a …

Oh wait.  Wrong Holiday.  It was Thanksgiving Day – 2014.  And the snow had fallen the previous day and shut down Skyline Drive…. the only way in to our Thanksgiving Feast at Skyland Resort.

As we drove from our home to Shenandoah National Park, we were unsure where we would be eating our Thanksgiving Meal.  At 7:00 Am Skyland Drive remained closed.  I entered the # on speed dial (thankful for cell phones).   We decided we would keep calling and would not give up hope until we hit the entrance gate.  As we traveled out of Pennsylvania – a call was made. Road Closed.  Through Maryland – Road Closed. I called the lodge and asked for an alternative road or if they could send down some snowmobiles (I was told this was not Yellowstone.)    Through West Virginia we travelled – Road Close.  Entered Virginia – Road Closed…  I instead this time decided to call the restaurant.  It was hard to believe there was not some sort of access road to get us to Skyland Resort.  We were asked if wanted to cancel… but where else would we eat?  No way.  We were holding out.  With less then one hour to go, leaving the highway and diverting from our final destination… the message had changed.  I had to listen again just to believe it.. Road open form Thorton Gap to Skyland Lodge!   One way in and one way out.  It would mean backtracking to reach our final destination but that did not matter!  We were in!  Thanksgiving Day was saved!

And oh what a magical ride it was up the mountain. Tree tops glistening with snow.  Deer prancing through the forest.  Icicles suspended from rocks. As we climbed to the highest point of the mountain, it was easy to see why this road was shut down.  Snow was several inches deep.    The temperature plummeted from high thirties to match the date…

As we entered the lodge, we were seated at the best table – with a view overlooking the snow covered mountain down to the valley below.  We enjoyed a feast – what a wonderful meal!

A Thanksgiving hike was planned to burn off the calories but that was unfortunately not going to happen… but there were still pullovers to stop enjoy!   As we descended the mountain, the snow began to fall again but this did not stop us from stopping at each pullover to enjoy the view.  By the last pullover it became one big blur as the snow began to come down steadily.   We departed Shenandoah National Park stuffed and oh so happy. It was surely a Thanksgiving that we will never forget!

View from Atop the Mountain

Twisting and Sampling in Lititiz

Where else can you go to the site of the first pretzel factory in the new world and get to learn how to twist your own pretzel.  Then walk just a few blocks and begin to smell the aroma of chocolate?  And even better samples are inside where that smell is coming from!  You have reached the home of Wilbur Chocolate and the famous chocolate bud! Then step across a threshold and feel like you’ve crossed the sea into an English pub. This is no gimmicky over the top themed place – it feels like the real thing as you cozy up to a  pub table with another group and enjoy hearty fare  (all the while being to enjoy this experience as a family).  Bulls Head Public House is amazing! Ordering up at the bar added an even more relaxed feeling and it was difficult to leave (luckily the delicious dinner is followed by just as good dessert – sticky toffee pudding – allowing all plenty of time to relax.)

What a great impromptu day trip just focusing in on the one town of Lititz.  We usually start this journey to Lancaster County either much earlier or stay overnight… but got a late start.

.. However for the short drive of 1.5 hours it was well worth the experience.. Oh and the goodies we brought home (close to ten pounds of pretzels and chocolate)…

Two favorite local spot

Last weekend the rain on Saturday caused us to cancel our biking plans on the Canal Path. We just weren’t in the mood for a sloppy ride that day.  Instead we took a leisurely stroll through the neighborhoods of Lambertville; admiring all the beautiful homes.  We even stumbled upon a neat little nature trail that winded up a ridge where we could look down on the town and the houses below.  It starts on York Street  to Alexander Ave and aptly named Lambertville Nature Trail (Amazingly it appears on Google Maps!)  With all of the leaves coming into full autumn colors – lots of golden leaves — it was beautiful. (For those visiting the area, Lambertivlle NJ is a  town that sits across the Delaware river from New Hope.  There are quaint little coffee shops, artist studios, great restaurants,  a bike path passing through the town ,(D&R Canal), and wonderful antique stores – and now I have learned of a great nature trail. Definitely worth making the trip across the bridge for this town has its own unique style.

We did another nice walk on Sunday at a place I grew up visiting – Tyler State Park in Newtown.  There is a very nice loop trail perfect for a Sunday walk – a bridge across the Neshaminy Creek on 332 makes it happen. Upon taking the Tyler Drive Trail you can now cross the creek and connect with the Mill Dairy Trail.  You wouldn’t know this from looking at the park map. What is nice is the fact it is all paved – perfect for a day after a heavy rain where you want a good nature trail but on pavement.

Hopefully this upcoming weekend brings nice weather for a nice bike ride!

Ironton Rail-Trail

What a great ride!  A trail that loops!   Historical sights to see along the way! Beautiful scenery!  This trail has it all!  Once again Traillink  (and the bikers who contribute reviews) guided us to an amazing trail – The Ironton Rail Trail.

We began our journey at Hokendauqua Park – easy to find and provides easy access to the trail.   You wind through the playground and then connect with the trail.  The trail is paved at this point and is for the most part flat with just a slight incline.

The highlight to the first part of this loop (in addition to the great scenery and the Lehigh river!) are the large cement kilns at Saylor Park.  This is a great place to stop and take a break and explore the history of these kilns.   These are the only vertical Portland cement Kilns in existence! They were only used for this purpose for a short period of time – 1893-1904 – but during that time Lehigh Valley produced 3/4 of the cement in the United States! (Apparently at one time there was a museum interconnecting the kilns but that is no longer accessible. There is a large fence around the nine kilns).    Really neat!  And the trail continues with historical markers, remains of the old railroad, and even a caboose that once road on this railroad!Kilns

We decided to take the spur – adding on another 6 miles roundtrip – another beautiful ride past cement historical buildings.  Highlight for me was one of the old structures that was turned into a beautiful bird blind (picture up top).

We joined back up with the loop and continued on the loop to our starting point.  This is a beautiful ride to take right now as the leaves are changing.    The entire trail is well maintained and combined with the amazing scenery and historical sights,  one does not even realize they have already completed a 12 mile journey.